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Title of Journal: Apidologie

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Springer Paris

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In vitro rearing of stingless bee queens and their acceptance rate into colonies

Authors: Charles Fernando dos Santos, Patrick Douglas de Souza dos Santos, Betina Blochtein,

Publish Date: 2015/10/19
Volume: 47, Issue:4, Pages: 539-547
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The in vitro rearing of queen bees can improve the management and conservation of pollinator insects. Here, we have developed an in vitro queen-rearing protocol for Plebeia droryana (Apidae, Meliponini). Firstly, we evaluated the amount of food offered naturally to P. droryana queen larvae. After, we grafted P. droryana larvae onto acrylic plates which were kept in constant darkness at 25 °C and different relative humidity along larval development. We also compared intertegular distance of P. droryana queens reared in vitro and naturally. We then tested whether queens reared in vitro would be accepted into new colonies with older and/ or callow workers. We found that P. droryana larvae developed into queens if fed with 66 μL of larval food. The survival rate of P. droryana queens was > 75 %. The queens reared in vitro are similar in size to naturally produced ones. Finally, colonies only containing callow workers are more likely to accept queens reared in vitro. This queen-rearing technique may improve beekeeping practices in the Neotropical Region.Bees provide an important ecological service as the main pollinators of wild plants and crops (Kevan and Baker 1983; Klein et al. 2007). However, in current years, native bee populations have declined worldwide, threatening this pollination service (Freitas et al. 2009; Potts et al. 2010). The causes of this decline may include habitat loss and/or fragmentation, intense use of agrochemicals, pathogens, alien bee species and climate change (Freitas et al. 2009; Potts et al. 2010). These pressures may well lead to a global deficit in the availability of pollinators for food production even of honeybees Apis mellifera Linnaeus (Aizen and Harder 2009).Thus, this concern becomes even more serious because the main bee species globally responsible for agricultural pollination, A. mellifera, is suffering increasing death of its colonies due to colony collapse disorder (VanEngelsdorp et al. 2009). Honeybees therefore cannot be relied on in the future as the most effective pollinators of many crops throughout the planet, and we shall have to depend much more on native bee species for effective pollination (Freitas et al. 2009; Garibaldi et al. 2013; Witter et al. 2015).Further honeybees, few bee species can be traditionally managed in hives (as bumblebees and stingless bees) or elsewhere (solitary bees) (e.g. Freitas and Pereira 2004; Cortopassi-Laurino et al. 2006; Velthuis and van Doorn 2006), albeit there are about 20,000 bee species worldwide (Michener 2007). In the Neotropical Region, the stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) are an important group of highly eusocial bees that have been identified as a viable alternative which may help to mitigate the pollination deficit in many natural and crop systems (Freitas et al. 2009; Garibaldi et al. 2013).The rearing of stingless bees in hives (meliponiculture) is a highly sustainable activity because beekeepers can work near native forests, as well as help conserve endemic bee species, in order to obtain bees’ products (pollen, honey, propolis) and promote effective agricultural pollination (Cortopassi-Laurino et al. 2006; Slaa et al. 2006; Contrera et al. 2011). Stingless bees can add high economic value to crops (Giannini et al. 2015). They have been identified as effective pollinators of fruit, vegetables and seed crops such as tomato, coffee, strawberry, citrus, avocado, onion, cucumber and canola (Heard 1999; Slaa et al. 2006; Witter et al. 2015).Nevertheless, meliponiculture faces the problem of multiplying hives from core colonies which often hold only a few virgin queens (except Melipona Illiger geuns) for successful colony multiplication (Imperatriz-Fonseca and Zucchi 1995). Therefore, the management and propagation of stingless bee colonies may be greatly compromised because there are not sufficient queens to head new colonies (Jaffé et al. 2015). Thus, the mass rearing of virgin queens may offer a means to overcome the low natural production of virgin queens in most stingless bee genera, and therefore increase the number of new colonies that can be used to restore adequate pollination in natural ecosystems or crops (Cortopassi-Laurino et al. 2006; Contrera et al. 2011; Jaffé et al. 2015).Queen-rearing techniques for stingless bees are based mainly on the overfeeding of female larvae in vitro (Baptistella et al. 2012; Menezes et al. 2013), since castes determination system in most stingless bee genera depends mainly on trophic factors (Darchen and Delage-Darchen 1971). Female larvae destined to become queens receive more larval food in the bigger (royal) cells than female larvae destined to become workers reared in smaller brood cells (Darchen and Delage-Darchen 1971).



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